One word aptly describes Ft. Hood mass murderer Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan: traitor.
Traitor is a tough word. It doesn't smudge and squish. "Traitor" draws a hard line, one that sharply divides essential life-determining values and marks a defining personal choice between the profound and the profane.
There is no question that the accusation of treason, like accusations involving its kin terms sedition and betrayal, has been grossly abused.
Self-styled mainstream journalists with no regard for the awful moral weight and terrible consequences of the actual act of sedition heedlessly employ the accusation as a word weapon to thwart discomfiting political criticism. For example, Time Magazine's Joe Klein wrote this past Oct. 23 that "some of" what Fox News presents ("peddles" was Klein's verb) "borders on sedition."
Klein's rash innuendo (so indicative of people who live in a relatively safe world protected by cops and soldiers) is lightweight prostitution compared to the thoroughly dirty work of the hard left propagandists at MoveOn.org, who all but called Gen. David Petraeus a traitor.
I am referring to the infamous ad of Sept. 10, 2007, titled "GENERAL PETRAEUS OR GENERAL BETRAY US?" For $65,000 (a discount rate), The New York Times obliged MoveOn's smear in cold type. To be a traitor was to disagree with MoveOn.org over not simply how to fight to win the war in Iraq but to fight it at all.
MoveOn whined that it was exercising freedom of speech, but that corrupt outfit was operating in the grand tradition of Sen. Joe McCarthy, architect of the 1950s Senate "McCarthy Hearings," which investigated alleged communist infiltration of American institutions. Tail Gunner Joe practiced destructive public smearing (cloaked in the name of patriotism) to advance his own personal power.
We now call this vicious excess McCarthyism. President Dwight Eisenhower hammered McCarthy when the senator alleged the military was filled with traitors. Ike exercised more than the power of the presidency, he had the moral authority of a bona fide war hero.
Indeed, accusations of treason and sedition by irreparably bad actors like McCarthy and MoveOn have grotesquely scarred the terms.
With Hasan, however, we move well beyond accusation. Hasan committed an act of treason. Count the bodies, dead and wounded, for they are harsh facts, and they are the consequences.
Conflicting loyalties and identities pervaded the U.S. Civil War. Col. Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Federal Army, but rejected it because his loyalty to Virginia trumped his oath to defend the United States. Fellow Virginian and West Point graduate George Thomas ("the Rock of Chickamauga") served with the Union and was branded a traitor by Southerners.
These men at least made their choices evident, and they waged war as armed adversaries in open battle.
Hasan's treachery is more like that of America's most infamous traitor, the Revolutionary War's Benedict Arnold. The fortuitous capture of a British spy foiled Arnold's plot to betray the Continental Army position at West Point to the British. Arnold committed treason for money and rank in the British Army, and his treachery put American soldiers and the war effort at risk.
Hasan's treason employed terrorist tactics. Sure, the lawyers can argue Hasan attacked soldiers, with civilians as incidental targets, and the assault occurred on a military post, but the tactics are those used by jihadis in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Indonesia and a score of other nations -- the armed killer entering an open facility and massacring unarmed men and women.
As a retired officer familiar with the military investigation process, I am certain the post-attack investigations now underway will ultimately provide a detailed picture of a 21st century turncoat, one of great use to intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies. Since Hasan survived, we may hear from him about his journey from medical officer to jihadi.
His own explanations -- whether glandular, psychological, theological or political theatrical -- will intrigue many, particularly in the chitchat media already fretting over his identity crisis, but they will not raise the dead, comfort the grieving or satisfy fellow soldiers he betrayed.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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